Carrie Lam to withdraw extradition bill

Too little, too late for Hong Kong

Adam Ni, China researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney.

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Carrie Lam is set to formally withdraw the controversial extradition bill that sparked the current crisis in Hong Kong. She will meet her political allies shortly and we can expect an announcement soon.

But this comes too little too late for Hong Kong. There is no going back. If this came earlier then it may have made a difference to public sentiment, but as it currently stands, I think it will have minimal effects on public sentiments and how they view her government and her political masters in Beijing.

Since early June (when the mass protests started), support and trust in her government and in the HK police have been eroding. Her unresponsiveness tone-deafness to public demands has damaged her credibility beyond repair.

The formal withdraw of the bill is certainly good. But that alone is not going to be enough to satisfy an angry and frustrated public. The nature of the protest movement has transformed over the last 13 weeks, from one that focused narrowly on the withdraw of the bill, to one that has five demands:

  1. formal withdraw of the extradition bill

  2. independent inquiry into police conduct

  3. withdraw the label of “riot” for protests

  4. release and drop charges against the arrested protesters

  5. implementation of genuine universal suffrage

Many HK protesters talk about the five demands as their core aim that cannot be compromised. There is no indication that Beijing or Lam is willing to agree to all five.

Withdrawing the extradition bill is a good sign, a first step to down-ramping in Hong Kong. But it alone will is far from enough to kick off the virtuous cycle that lowers tension and builds trust. She will have to take further steps, such as setting up an independent inquiry into police conduct. If she does not take further steps, then we can expect the protests to continue.